How to Out-Grow Self-Prejudice
Have you ever had moments where you were feeling ten-feet tall and then caught a look at yourself in the mirror and had every good feeling come crashing down? I used to tear myself apart for how I looked. I still remember the first ever crashing down feeling that shattered my world. It was a Middle School Halloween Dance, where puberty and being over-weight came together in an unholy matrimony with hyper self-consciousness and a form-fitting ninja costume.
In my life I’ve dieted from 260lbs down to 148lbs over the course of 2–1/2 years and that still didn’t satisfy the pain I caused myself for not being enough. I’m hovering around 210lbs now and it’s definitely not all muscle, but I feel great when I look in the mirror and I’d like to share some practices and changes I brought into my life that helped me make that happen.
The first I put in place was changing how my prejudice was towards other people. I realized that all prejudice, whether directed at ourselves or others comes from the same source inside us. It’s like a cup with a certain volume of capacity that shrank or enlarged depending on how much we exercised it. The more I used it towards other people, the larger it became and the more intertwined we became, this habitual response of tearing people down. Only till in those moments alone, for that same habit to resurface and turn its knives on me.
I didn’t just stop tearing people down and dismissing them when I saw their “flaws”. I had to replace that action with something else and that was seeing beyond their differences that I was judging so harshly. Taking the next step after that habitual reaction to look into their eyes and feel their humanity. Slowing down and feeling their presence and getting a read on who they were, rather than how I judged. Doing this chipped away at my capacity for prejudice and brought a new and different action to the table that I would slowly start directing towards myself. Instead of “how did I look?” it was “how did I stand?”. Recognizing the hint of a smile, the light in the eyes, a firmness, found within a vibrant self-respecting person, that I began to see in others and also within myself. Slowly changing from the binary categorization of good or bad, to details and specifics about how our character and personality expressed itself through our features.
While I was chipping away at my capacity for prejudice I was also working on my relationship with superiority and inferiority. I recognized that they were extremes connected together in a feedback loop and they were clouding my emotions and view of myself. I had things I excelled in that made it all too easy for me to feel superior and that become an emotional refuge when the things I sucked at reared their heads. So my feelings of inferiority would push me to raise higher the ceiling of my “greatness”, which just made a higher perch to come crashing down from. I had to find a more stable and grounded feedback loop to make my home and that led me to confidence and being humble.
Humble is easy to understand, but what do I mean by confidence? It means that I was focused on the trust and security I had inside me for what I could already do. What I earned honestly, through experience and the gaining of adaptations by pushing my comfort zone. I didn’t indulge in trains of thought like how great or bad I was. I instead focused on what I could do and what it took and then I focused on being humble towards the long path I still had in front of me for the things I haven’t done and would need to succeed. Managing the distance I felt from my goals with how close the capabilities I needed to reach them with were in my grasp. I focused on the work and the tools I had, rather then dwelling upon how it felt not being there yet.
I went on an emotional diet where I wouldn’t identify as great and feel that rush lifting me up and I wouldn’t identify as shit and feel that crushing weight, pushing me down. It was instead “look at all you’ve done” feeling the moments with self-trust instead of excitation as the process of how far I’ve come showed me the same steps I could take to continue far into what I could one day be. It gave me clarity as well as added emotional stability.
Feeling good, bad, and great come about as a “status check” validating who we are and how well we meet our societal or self-imposed conditions for success, but it can grow easily into an over-indulgence and an extreme one that can destroy lives. Just think of some of the horrible things people have done to others to justify and reinforce their “greatness”. The higher you get, the higher the requirement to stay there and rather then earn that height honestly, it’s all to easy to leverage that gap by exploiting others and ourselves for those “hits of greatness”.
I didn’t want to live like that because the feeling of home was more precious to me than the importance of feeling greatness. And that was the final thing that helped me so deeply with my self-prejudice. When you are as blessed as I am to have a wonderful Wife to create a home with, you can calm down in a lot of ways as a person. Your aims and considerations change, because you know what real intimacy feels like and that replaces the things you chase, because the roar of the crowd can’t hold a candle to the whisper of your loved ones, welcoming you home. Plus, it’s harder to treat yourself so harshly and tell yourself those same stories of self-hate when you have a person mirroring a better reality. You see the qualities it really takes to create a beautiful space with another person and how it’s so much more then the way we look.
We humans are by no means an island and having love and support that we can trust enough to accept over our self-castigation can go a long way towards helping us heal. Whether you turn to your partner for support, friends, or family the important thing is being able to trust in how they see you. So they can ground you in a view of who you are that isn’t tainted by a history of self-negativity and show you that the extreme conditions we set on ourselves for peace of mind, aren’t the only ones that matter. You can have love, even with your “flaws”, you can be desired, you can reach and be the person you want, regardless of how you look.
And if you don’t have any support that will provide that space for you, leave me a comment and I will be that support. There are places and groups specifically tailored to seeing who you are despite your differences and I will point you towards them and join my voice to theirs for as much as I am able. It may seem like a little thing, that doesn’t mean all that much right now, but over time these small things grow and become precious. Just like a spark can grow into a forest fire, so to can our self-love grow from the tiniest seeds to a beautiful garden, that can supplant the void of pain and “not being enough”.
Good luck and I wish you all the best in your journey. If you have any questions or trouble-shooting issues, please let me know and we can get into your specific challenge or resistance to change and have you pointed in the right direction.